Saturday, August 1, 2015

On Death - Write that down.

Lisa and I have talked about a billion things over the past couple of weeks, but there are two specific things that I was directed to write down. So, that's what I'm doing. Writing it down.

(And I suppose for the sake of any strangers who stumble upon this blog, I should say that Lisa is a good friend and mom to little Eli, who recently went to be with Jesus. So she's a newly initiated member of death club, where we love well, but "we aren't as fun as Girl Scouts." Quote credit to the wonderful and hilarious Janice Foster.)

The first thing I want you to know about death is that it's not what you think it is. This is so hard to communicate, and I'm not sure anyone will believe me until they are actually in it, but it's just not what you think it is. Lisa and I sat in my car in the wee hours on Saturday night, the night before Eli passed, talking and crying and praying. She told me how she didn't think she could survive losing him, how she didn't know how she would be okay, and how she didn't know how they would go on. She shared all the fears and thoughts you can imagine, and yes, you CAN imagine it. Everything that you'd fear and think if it were your child in that hospital bed is everything that she said. I kept telling her, "If you have to do it, you'll be able to do it, and I'm so sorry that you'll be able to do it." She was sharing thoughts about life without Eli, well beyond the actual moment of loss. How would she only be a mom to a teenager? Would she be such a young empty nester? How can this be happening? This is all wrong. It absolutely is all wrong. Completely. 100%. However, there is something interesting that happens when we entertain thoughts and fears about the future in our minds. I experienced this when I lost Ransom, and I've experienced it in a hundred different ways since then. The anticipation of a thing is almost always worse than the thing itself. I truly believe the reason for that is because we fail to account for God in our minds. You have to know that when I knew that I'd be giving birth to a baby who had already passed away, I was terrified. How could I do that? How would I survive? What would it be like? Would I be completely crushed? There is no way I could live through such a thing. ....and then God. If you know my birth story, you know that I ended up giving birth with arms raised singing a worship song. It was truly the most beautiful birth experience of my life. It wasn't because of me or anything I did. It was because God showed up. When God shows up, things are completely different than our fears and expectations. We can't predict God. He does new things. He shows up. He walks with us through our darkest moments, and they are completely different than our expectations. There are moments of beauty and joy and even laughter. He genuinely draws near to the brokenhearted. And when He's near, you're okay... actually, you're better than okay, and there are times in those moments when you get a glimpse of the bigger picture and realize that your pain is worth all of this beauty, and this story, and this closeness with the Creator. I understand if you only sort of believe what I'm saying here, and that's okay, but just try to plant this little nugget in your mind. When you are fearful and anxious about the future, remember that your brain is only capable of so much. Once you're actually in those places where you're afraid, God will show up. It won't match any of the scenarios your mind has constructed, and you'll remember that He is good. So whatever it is, you'll be able to do it. And I'm so sorry (but maybe a little not sorry?) that you'll be able to do it.

Here's the second thing. Once you've walked through a loss, you have a choice. It is easy to become extremely fearful. Death has hit too close to home now. You can expect it to hit again, at every turn....OR you can become fearless. You can recognize that you have survived the worst experience of your life, and no matter what is thrown at you, you will survive. You are capable of so much more than you realized. No, you don't become reckless or try to tempt death, but you grow in strength and confidence. You think, "Screw you, Death. You thought you were going to destroy me,  but you didn't. I'm going to take this experience and tell everyone they shouldn't be afraid of you. I'm going to link arms with others who've walked this journey, and you are going to lose some of your power against us." In the past, I shared my Lord of the Rings analogy, and I'm going to share it again. This is an excerpt from a previous blog, but it still applies.

"I’ve shared this several times with several different people. I think it applies to a multitude of circumstances. I know it applies to mine. (Bear with the following nerdiness.) In the first Lord of the Rings movie, there is this scene that always makes me cry. They are running across this bridge in the mines of Moria. This monster, a Balrog, to be precise, is coming after them. Gandalf stops on the bridge and faces the monster. He yells, “You cannot pass!” The monster keeps coming at them. He says, “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun.” A moment of silence. “Go back to the shadow.” Another moment of silence. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!” Every single time I see that scene, I cry. I think if I had any clue of the power that I have in Christ, I would face my own fears with that kind of confidence. I would slam my staff into the ground. I would say, “I am a servant of the Most High God, bearer of His Holy Spirit. The dark fire will not avail you, my enemy.” “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah, great. Doesn’t Gandalf fall off the cliff in that scene?” Yes. He does. BUT THAT MONSTER DOES NOT PASS. And if you know the whole story, you know that Gandalf falls and fights that monster and emerges as Gandalf the White. Here’s a youtube clip of the scene. ( Knowing Tolkien’s motivation for writing these books, I don’t think my interpretation or encouragement from that scene is far from the mark that he intended. So, as I daily declare to my fears that they shall not pass, join with me. Declare the same to your own. Slam your staffs into the ground and refuse to be defeated. Join with me “until at last we throw down our enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.”

Sometimes we face hard battles. We fall off the cliff and we fight. There is hurt and pain and difficulty, but our monsters DO NOT PASS. We don't give ourselves enough credit, but if fear hasn't completely overtaken our lives, if we're battle-weary and still fighting, it counts! Gandalf's battle was long and rough, and our own battles are the same, but as long as we keep fighting the temptation to let fear take over our lives, our monsters WILL NOT PASS, and guess what? WE WIN. Screw you, Death.